Is Turkey a regional energy leader?

Richert, Jörn. 2015. Is Turkey's Energy Leadership Over Before It Began? IPC-Mercator Policy Brief

Central argument

The policy brief analyses Turkey’s energy strategy aiming to attain a regional energy leadership. By deconstructing the notions of ‘regional energy’ and ‘leadership’, the document shows that this aim has not been attained and is unlikely to be attained in the future. Instead, Turkey is left with the options of either supporting ‘energy securitisation’ by becoming an ‘energy power’ or ‘energy economisation’ by becoming a (non-political) ‘energy hub’.

The ‘regional energy’ in the brief is defined as the Southern energy corridor, i.e. a set of initiatives to bring Caspian and Central Asian hydrocarbons to Europe and the world without traversing Russian territory. The Copenhagen School’s idea of the ‘regional security complex’ is used to justify this approach.

The ‘leadership’ is defined, following Joseph Nye, as a combination of soft and hard power to help a group of countries to articulate and achieve their common goals. Importantly, leadership is a quality that implies ‘followership’, i.e. attractive ideas aligned with aspirations of other countries in the region.

The brief argues that Turkey has not meet the criteria for regional energy leadership in the period of ‘new oil’ of the mid-1990s and in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline period in the late 1990s and early 2000s (when the US was a leader), in the ‘Nabucco’ period when the EU attempted but failed to lead, and currently when the leadership goes to Azerbaijan, which is likely to play a major role in financing the TANAP gas pipeline.

In the future, Turkey’s options are constrained: * to either manipulating gas supplies through her territory and thus ‘securitizing’ energy and becoming a ‘secondary energy power’ (but not a leader!) or else * to de-politicising (‘economising’) energy and becoming an ‘energy hub’, once again not a leader.

POLET observation

Although not stated in the brief, the concept of ‘international leadership’ may be used to analyse, for example, the role Germany aims to play with globally replicating the lessons of its Energiewende.